Sunday, August 4, 2013

Japan's first astronaut on Fukushima catastrophe

Japan Times has an extensive interview with Toyohiro Akihama, the first ever Japanese astronaut, who was also the first journalist in space. Some time after his adventure, he moved to the countryside to experience the agricultural life, with the bad luck of ending up just 60 km from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The whole interview is of interest but he has something to say in particular about the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe and how Japan mismanages it:

In the world of engineering, you can’t have “absolute safety” — that’s why the “nuclear village” engineers can’t be trusted. How can they say nuclear power plants are absolutely safe? That’s not possible. Experts who call something safe when it can’t possibly be safe are living in a world of religion, not science.


I had reported on the fifth anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (in present-day Ukraine) and the Three Mile Island accident (in Pennsylvania in 1979), so I knew all too well what the governments of the U.S. and Russia had done. 

I had read books on how the Japanese government has dealt with nuclear accidents in the past. When there’s an emergency, what the authorities try to do is to maintain “law and order.” What is order? It’s protecting the system presiding at the time. (...) What does maintaining order mean to them? To maintain the order of the existing “nuclear village.”


What gave me the best pointer was the fact that President Barack Obama ordered all Americans to evacuate from within a 50-mile (80 km) radius (of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant). There was no better message than that. The government was bound to lie.


In Kyoto (where he now lives) we had a welcoming outcome (in July 21′s Upper House elections), with a member of the (antinuclear) Japanese Communist Party winning a seat. I don’t particularly like the JCP and I’m not a communist — if anything, I’d be more black than red (laugh). But when I read the statements by all the candidates running for the Upper House from Kyoto, nobody except for the JCP candidate said they were clearly opposed to the restart of nuclear reactors.

So the antinuclear voice was clearly expressed in the election. But the mass media failed to inform the voters. They treated the nuclear-power issue almost like a good luck charm. And Tepco only announced after the election that radioactive water from the Fukushima plant had seeped into the groundwater and flowed into the sea — but they should’ve known that already! Isn’t this media control? So my biggest theme at the moment is to stop the restart of nuclear reactors in Japan.

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